Hostas (Hosta spp.), sometimes called plantain lilies, are regarded for their colorful and attractively shaped leaves. These plants do flower, however, in the warmth of summer in an array of colors from lavender-purple to white. The flowers are held on leafless stems called scapes and each blossom is shaped like a bell, tube or wide-legged spider.
Hostas generally flower in summertime, but local climate determines which month. In the Deep South of the United States, some hosta varieties can begin flowering in late April, while in southern Canada, these same varieties may not bloom until July. In even the coldest climates, hostas are no longer in flower by early September.
Rising above the foliage, the usually leafless stalk or scape of the hosta is colored similarly to the leaves. The height to which the scape grows depends on the hosta species or variety; generally speaking, the larger the foliage or plant, the taller the scape. Flowers develop at the tip of the scape. Botanically speaking, the hosta inflorescence, or arrangement of flower on the scape, is a raceme. A raceme has flowers that radiate out from a central axis, with the youngest flowers at the highest tip of the scape. In most hostas, the raceme is one-sided on the scape. Within the clump of hosta foliage, there may be several scapes. The scape does not branch.
Flower Shape and Numbers
The hosta blossom opens bell-, funnel- or spider-like, depending on the plant variety, and in the raceme the lowest buds open first and progress upwards. The number of individual flowers per scape range from one to five to as many as 12 to 20. The flower is usually single, meaning it has one row of petals or lobes on the edge of the blossom. Rarely are double-form flowers seen, which have multiple rows of petals and lobes and makes the flower look full and ruffled. Two varieties with double flowers are "Aphrodite" and "Venus."
Color and Fragrance
Hosta flowers may or may not be fragrant. The fragrance is sweet and pleasant if present. Hosta plantaginea is renowned for its floral fragrance, and any varieties with this species in its lineage usually are fragrant, too. Blossom color ranges from white to lavender in most cases, but modern selections include hostas that have mauve, medium purple, pale green or light silvery-blue flowers. Depending on the natural lighting in the garden, white flowers can look more satiny blue or silver in tone.
Flowering lasts from one to three weeks on the plant. With several scapes, the flowering display can last slightly longer. The progression of flowers on the scape, from bottom to top, can take as little as four or five days to as long as four weeks when air temperatures are unseasonably cool. After all flowers wane on the scape, the flower ovaries swell into green seeds, later turning brown. The dried flowers are often persistent on the scape--gardeners choose to then quickly cut off the scape so that the hosta plant looks more attractive.